White Sox

Clutch offense reappears for White Sox after 20 days

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Clutch offense reappears for White Sox after 20 days

MINNEAPOLIS -- Want to know why the White Sox are eight games below .500 (among a variety of reasons)?

The offense hasn’t been very clutch, especially of late. The White Sox hope to build of some of the two-out momentum gained in the late innings of a 6-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Not only did the White Sox score four runs with two outs, all from the sixth inning on, they also had their most hits with runners in scoring position in 20 days.

[MORE WHITE SOX: Samardzija, Soto lead White Sox to victory over Twins]

“When you can produce with two outs, it’s very important because that is a difficult moment,” slugger Jose Abreu said through an interpreter. “You probably have the inning on the line, and for us, it’s important. It’s important any time you can produce after two outs. We did it today. I don’t know how to explain, but we did it today, and it’s a good first step.”

Geovany Soto was the first to step forward when he singled in the sixth inning on a 0-2 pitch from Mike Pelfrey to tie the game at 2. An inning later, Melky Cabrera singled to left center to drive in Abreu, who singled with two outs and moved to second on an Adam LaRoche walk.

Adam Eaton doubled in Carlos Sanchez, who doubled, with two outs in the eighth inning. And Gordon Beckham doubled in LaRoche in the ninth, to extend the team’s lead to four runs.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

The White Sox were 5-for-16 with runners in scoring position. Not bad for a team that had gone 18-for-105 (.171) since posting five hits with RISP in a June 3 win over the Texas Rangers. Even more impressive is that it came after the White Sox left them loaded in the first inning with only one out and stranded two more in the second against Pelfrey.

“After the first inning you could fall into a trap of it’s not happening and guys stayed with it,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “(Two-out hits) are always important. You feel like you always leave them out there.

“When you get two-out hits it hurts the other side. We know what it feels like when it happens to us and guys grinding away, Gordon there in the last inning getting some and taking care of it. Any time you add on and just get those to squeak through with two outs, you kind of wear away the other side.”

Since they went 5-for-12 with runners in scoring position in a 9-2 win over the Texas Rangers on June 3, the White Sox have hit .171 as a team. Before the slump, the White Sox were hitting .270 with runners in scoring postion. The team’s average dropped to .250 heading into Tuesday’s victory.

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

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USA TODAY

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

One Jimenez just isn't enough for the White Sox.

The White Sox signed the younger brother of top prospect Eloy Jimenez this weekend. Enoy Jimenez is a 17-year-old infielder, and the 21-year-old outfielder ranked as the No. 3 prospect in baseball was on hand for his brother's big moment.

Eloy figures to hit the big leagues early next season, though it will likely be a while longer before his teenage brother could do the same. Still, they're likely hoping for the chance to play together one day.

According to this pretty exhaustive list from MLB.com, four sets of brothers have played together on the White Sox: Homer and Ted Blankenship in the 1920s, Dick and Hank Allen in the 1970s, Roberto and Sandy Alomar in 2003 and 2004 and John and Jordan Danks in 2012.

Should we be getting ready for the fifth pair?

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

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USA TODAY

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

This season, Matt Davidson became the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in a season opener. It definitely raised a few eyebrows, especially after Paul Konerko noted during spring training that a 40-home run season and an All-Star selection isn’t out of the question for the California native. After clobbering nine home runs (seven of them coming at Kauffman Stadium) in his first 21 games, anything seemed possible.

Unfortunately it didn’t quite turn out that way, though he did rack up his second straight 20-homer season. But it’s hard to argue that 2018 wasn’t a success for Davidson — mostly because of the swings he didn’t make.

Everything else aside, Davidson walked as often as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in 2018.

OK, the more meaningful comparison would be Davidson to himself.

What stands out is his walk rate. One hundred fifty three players had at least 400 plate appearances in both 2017 and 2018. Among them, Davidson had the second-highest increase in walk percentage this past season.

Consider this: In 2017, Davidson and Tim Anderson became (and still are) the only players in MLB history with 160-plus strikeouts and fewer than 20 walks in a season.

Davidson, while logging 20 more at-bats in 2018, had the same number of strikeouts, 165, but he increased his walk total from 19 to 52. Give him credit for that. It’s a tough adjustment to make at the minor league level let alone in the major leagues. The increased walk rate brought his on-base percentage from .260 in 2017 (well below the AL average of .324) to .319 in 2018 (a tick above the AL average of .318) and pushed his overall offensive production from 16 percent below league average (as measured by his 84 weighted runs created plus, or wRC+) to four percent above league average (104 wRC+).

And I haven’t even mentioned the most fun aspect of his 2018 season: He pitched! And he pitched well.

Thirty pitchers took the mound for the White Sox in 2018, all of whom made at least three appearances. And only one of them didn’t allow a run: Davidson.

He topped out at 91.9 MPH and had as many strikeouts, two, as baserunners allowed in his three innings of work. The two batters he struck out, Rougned Odor and Giancarlo Stanton, combined for 56 home runs in 2018. They combined for 89 home runs (and an MVP award) in 2017.

In his career, Stanton had a combined 16 plate appearances and zero strikeouts against Barry Zito, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Edwin Díaz. He struck out in his one plate appearance against Davidson.

Davidson is one of just three players with 20 or more home runs and at least three mound appearances in a season in MLB history:

— Babe Ruth (1919): 29 home runs, 17 games on the mound
— Davidson (2018): 20 home runs, three games on the mound
— Shohei Ohtani (2018): 22 home runs, 10 games on the mound

Facts are facts. Davidson is actually serious about expanding his role on the mound.

“To be honest, I would love to maybe explore that idea,” he said in July. “Pitching was a dream. As a young kid, everybody wants to hit that walk-off homer, right? I was the guy striking that guy out. That’s how I first loved the game. My favorite player was Randy Johnson and doing that.

“So, it’s something I would be interested in. I don’t know if the game would necessarily allow that or something like that. It’s something that is really close to my heart is pitching.”

Whether or not it ever happens, Davidson’s 2018 was all about finding ways to increase his value. For the White Sox, that’s a good problem to have.